Let’s Impact Our Community!

August 28, 2017  |  Comments Off on Let’s Impact Our Community!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Several years ago the leaders of our church decided to change its name to Hollywood Community Church. Although that name isn’t necessarily compelling or eye popping, it does perfectly demonstrate who we are and what God has called us to do. At HCC we have a tremendous passion for the Gospel to make a difference in our city. That passion drives us to look for ways to serve those who live in our surrounding neighborhoods. Quite frankly, we do not always do a good job, but our name reminds us every day of our purpose. Of course, every church does not need to be called a community church, but every church should be impacting its community.

In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus commands the Church (Big “C”) to be salt and light. Those are not just clever metaphors. They should be functional realities. Both salt and light effect change. Salt purifies, sanitizes and preserves life, while light penetrates the darkness. What a beautiful illustration of what we have been called to do.

Notice that our light shines brightly, not just through the message that we preach, but also through the works that we do (v. 16). No doubt the proclamation of the Gospel is necessary, powerful and life changing, but the “good works” of the Gospel are what transforms communities.

There is a two-fold blessing for the church that serves its community. First of all, your community service will make a difference! As we mentioned, you will be salt and light. You will effect change.   At HCC, we love to give groceries to “food deprived” families. We get an enormous blessing out of finding a home for a homeless single mom or paying a bill for a veteran in a financial crisis. Those are huge wins for us.

Apart from the impact community service makes in the lives of your neighbors, there is a second blessing. Not only will your community be blessed, but your family and your church family will be impacted as well. Community service does not just help others; it helps you too! Here are a few internal rewards that you and your church will reap through community service.

  • Community service will unify the church.  It is amazing how petty problems, ministerial disagreements and personality conflicts disappear when you take your focus off of yourself and place it on the needs of others.   A church that is not looking outward will look inward. A congregation that is not broken by the needs of its neighbors will soon be bound by the grumbling of its members.
  • Community service will create a culture of generosity.   One of the greatest ways to promote generosity among your people is for them to hear, see and feel the brokenness of their community.   Remind them that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Challenge them with the thought that God has blessed them not to store up but to share with others.
  • Community service will result in evangelism opportunities. As you meet the physical needs of your community, they will turn to you with their spiritual needs.  We know that our neighbors need Jesus more than anything else, but often their immediate needs blind them from their spiritual need. Although many in our community are not interested in the Gospel, I am often astounded at how a kind word, a caring action or a small gift can soften a hard heart.

I would challenge you to look for ways to be missionally involved in your community.   As I mentioned, that looks different for every every individual. Here are some ways that you can represent Jesus and HCC in our community:  You can minister with Open Heart Food Pantry.  You can be a mentor at Hollywood Christian School or another area school.  Reach out to the homeless, veterans, widows or single moms in our city.   If you are not sure where to begin, just look for opportunities.  What are the needs of your area? Who is in desperate need of compassion, assistance and the Gospel? Investigate, pray, and connect with your neighbors. Allow God to let your light shine so bright that your community will see your good works and glorify you Father in heaven.

 

 

 

Back To School Advice from Proverbs

August 15, 2017  |  Comments Off on Back To School Advice from Proverbs  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Today is the first day of 2017/18 school year at Hollywood Christian School. It is always exciting to see the students return.   Moms and dads are in the hallways taking their children’s pictures with teachers. The students are neatly dressed in their new school uniforms. Friends are reuniting after their summer vacations. And the school staff is urgently running from place to place making sure that everything is ready to go. What an exciting day!

The first day of school always makes me think of the book of Proverbs. It might be because the words “instruction,” “knowledge,” and “wisdom” are repeatedly found throughout the book. It could also be that the tone of the book reminds me of a teacher instructing a student.   The truth of the matter is that Proverbs is filled with wise advice for everyone – the parent, the student and the teacher. Here are a few examples of Solomon’s sage advice…

  1. Knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord

That is the foundational premise of Proverbs. Solomon makes that assertion repeatedly throughout the first few chapters.

1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

 1:29 – Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.

It is entirely possible to be academically intelligent, but spiritually illiterate. It is conceivable for one to be a genius in knowledge but a fool in life.   How is that possible? Academic knowledge prepares the brain, but it is godly wisdom that prepares the heart.  It is the fear of the Lord that ties knowledge and wisdom together. When we recognize our need for God and give Him the place that He alone deserves, our knowledge is transformed into wisdom.

Parents, the best thing that you can do for your children this school year is to teach them to fear God. Model for them what it means to put God first in your life.

  1. Integrity is your most valuable possession

 Although you will probably work years to pay off your house, your car or even your boat, none of those things are your most precious commodity.   Your most valuable asset is your integrity.   Integrity is a complex word that is defined as “to be complete; to be morally honest; or to have a sincere heart.” Quite frankly, you either have integrity or you don’t have integrity. If you have it, it is very easy to lose and if you lose it, it is very hard to get back.   That is why Solomon warns you to guard it with your life.

10:9 – Whoever walks in integrity walks securely…

 11:3 – The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

  1. God blesses generosity

11:24 – One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed.

Solomon makes reference to an irrefutable spiritual law – Generosity pleases God while selfishness displeases Him. He gives to us so that we can give to others. God in His sovereignty has a way of taking what we give to others and giving it back to us.

These are just a few of the many nuggets that are found in Solomon’s book of wisdom. Let me encourage you to spend time in this profound book. Make yourself a student of God’s knowledge. I guarantee that you will reap the relational and the spiritual rewards.

Let’s Hit The Streets!

October 31, 2016  |  Comments Off on Let’s Hit The Streets!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

This past Sunday, Pastor David Rosa of Cruciform Church preached a tremendous message on prayer from Hebrews 4:15, 16 titled, “What If Everyone Prayed?” If you weren’t able to attend, you can listen to the message here:  http://www.ourhcc/sermons

This Saturday we would like to put his message into action as we host our first HCC Prayer Walk.  Now, I am sure that Prayer Walking is new to many of you, so let me answer a few questions you may have.

  • What is a Prayer walk?prayerwalk

Prayer walking is simply taking prayer to the streets.  As you walk through the neighborhoods surrounding HCC, you pray for each home that you pass.   The purpose is not to evangelize or engage in conversation, but to pray.   The goal is not to draw attention to yourself or what you are doing, but to inconspicuously pray.

  • Why Prayer Walk?

You might ask, “wouldn’t it be easier to stay inside the church building and pray for our community?” Although it may be easier, it is not as effective. Prayer walking gives you insight into our community. Prayer walking allows you to pray with more clarity and purpose.   You pray in the very places where you expect God to bring forth His answers.

  • What do you pray for?

We will ask you to pray for God’s blessings upon each household. You should pray for them to be receptive to the Gospel, to have a personal relationship with Jesus or anything else that the Holy Spirit lays on your heart. Be assured that we will give you a prayer guide with certain suggestions as to what you should pray.

  • What if I am unable to walk the streets?

For those unable to walk longer distances, we will place prayer teams into the classrooms of Hollywood Christian School. HCS is a ministry of Hollywood Community Church. It exists to bring students into a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of our students and their families, though, do not know Jesus. We must pray for their salvation and spiritual growth!

Additionally, there will be a group that will stay and pray for each of our missionaries.   We will have specific and up to date requests from many of our missionaries.

  • Can I Prayer Walk in my neighborhood?

Absolutely! Our goal is to get our families regularly prayer walking through their own neighborhoods. This Saturday, though, we want to join together and pray for those neighborhoods closest to the Church.   So, we ask you to join us at HCC and let’s pray together.

  • Where? When? How long?

We will meet this Saturday morning at 10:00 am in the Church Auditorium. We will meet together for a few brief minutes in order to pair up into teams of 2-3, give final instructions and pray together. We plan to be done around 11:30 am.

  • How can I prepare for this Prayer Walk?

The best way to prepare is to pray.   Yes, we want to pray for our Prayer Walk.   Pray that your heart will be right with God (Psalm 66:18). Pray for courage to walk the neighborhoods and pray (II Timothy 1:7). Pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as He guides you in praying for the homes along your walk (Romans 8:26).

Finally, let me encourage you to come with a sense of expectation. Remember that Jesus has already granted us access to God’s throne of grace. We can pray with confidence believing that He hears and answers our prayers. See you on Saturday!

Why Are Life Groups Important?

September 1, 2016  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Life Groups

Undoubtedly, the idea of believers meeting together in small groups is not something new. To the contrary, we find such meetings throughout the New Testament.

  • Jesus and His disciples

Some would argue that the first small group involved Jesus meeting with His disciples.  After calling them to Himself, Jesus spent great amounts of time with them.  (Matthew 1:11; 20:17: Mark 6:30-32)

Jesus spent significant time instructing, rebuking, and encouraging the disciples in their spiritual walk and ministry. It was their “small group” with Jesus that truly prepared them for their future ministry.

  • The early Church – Acts 2:46; 5:42

These early believers did not have church buildings to meet in. The first church buildings did not start to appear until the early 200s. For the first two centuries they met in homes. Now, let’s make sure that we paint the right picture.

This was not a meeting where coffee and donuts were shared while sitting on comfortable couches. No, as a matter of fact, the early church often met in secret. They met fearful of being caught. They met at the risk of being imprisoned or losing their lives. Yet they met together faithfully.

It always amazes me that the closer we move away from difficulties the less frequently we meet together.   The easier our lives get, the less urgency we feel to meet together with our Faith Family. The simple truth is that we need each other.  Life groups are important. If they were important for the disciples and the early Church, then they certainly must be important to us.

Let me give you five reasons why Life Groups are important.

  1. LIFE GROUPS develop healthy spiritual relationships
  • From the very beginning God designed man with the need to be in the company of others.

That truth is first seen in Genesis 2:18 when God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”   It is in the fellowship with other believers that we find the encouragement, accountability and support that we desperately need.

  • The phrase that Paul uses to describe the believer’s mutual relationship is “one another”.

Although “one another” is two words in English, it is only one word in Greek (ἀλλήλων). It is found 100 times in 94 New Testament verses.

  • These “one another” relationships are best played out in small groups where friendships are developed.

LIFE GROUPS provide friendship, camaraderie and accountability. They connect you with people that are struggling with the same battles that you face and rejoice in similar victories.   In short, LIFE GROUPS provide you with Christian friends that will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

  • Although, we should never isolate ourselves to the degree that we only have Christian friends, we must also make sure that our closest friends are ones who can help us in our spiritual walk (Proverbs 13:20; I Corinthians 15:33).
  1. LIFE GROUPS provide accountability – Proverbs 27:17
  • Accountability – The need for a believer to account for his/her activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent way.
  • All of us need someone to whom we are accountable, someone to whom we can confess our sins and disclose our secrets.
  • Our interaction with other believers actually hones or sharpens our skill in handling the challenges of life (James 5:16).
  1. LIFE GROUPS facilitate spiritual growth
  • Obviously, spiritual growth should be a normal part of the Christian experience.  A lack of spiritual growth should be abnormal (Colossians 1:10; I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18
  • By the way, there is never a time in which we should not be growing in our walk with the Lord.

We never grow to the place that we no longer need to grow.   Thus, we need to constantly put ourselves into situations that will facilitate growth.   That is why LIFE GROUPS are so vital.

  • Spiritual growth happens not just by listening to Scripture, but meditating on it and discussing (Psalm 1:1, 2).

There is something unique and powerful about studying God’s Word in a small group setting. In the worship service you sit and listen to the Pastor, while in small groups you sit and share with each other. Small groups allow for biblical truth to come alive in a way that is powerfully different than the worship experience. Both are necessary for spiritual growth. Those biblical truths that we hear need to be fleshed out, discussed and meditated on. Such biblical interaction with other believers facilitates spiritual growth.

  • Spiritual growth happens by living out the truth of God’s Word in community.

In other words, we take the principles of God’s Word that we have studied together and we put them into practice.   As part of the Faith Family, the Life Group is able to openly discuss the truths that are difficult to put into practice.   In those areas of weakness we find encouragement and support from our brothers and sisters in Christ.   Such support propels us forward in our Christian walk.

  1. LIFE GROUPS give an opportunity to demonstrate the reality of Christian Community
  • It is virtually impossible to demonstrate such community in corporate
  • The “one another” principles of the New Testament must be lived out in small groups (Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:1, 2; James 5:16).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together states, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” What a true statement!

  • It is in living, loving and ministering together that believers show the world the difference that Jesus Christ makes in our lives (John 13:35).
  1. LIFE GROUPS provide an opportunity for service
  • It makes perfect sense to do ministry with the same group of people with whom you are growing in your spiritual walk.
  • Such ministry opportunities provide the perfect environment to put into practice the spiritual truths that you are learning.
  • It is so much fun to be able to serve the Lord and others with those whom you know and love the best.

So let me ask, “are you part of a Life Group?”  If not, let me encourage you to find one.  You can get all the information you need on LIFE GROUPS at the guest services table or you can find it on our web site at   http://site.ourhcc.org/life-groups/

You will not regret it!

 

 

 

An Explanation of the Changes to the HCC By Laws and Statement of Faith

August 16, 2016  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

This past Sunday we distributed the changes to the By Laws and Statement of Faith that have been recommended by the Elders and Deacons. Below you will find a more detailed explanation as to why these changes have been proposed. Please take a moment to read this letter, then read the changes that have been proposed.

  1. Changes to the By Laws

There are primarily two changes that we are recommending to the By Laws.

  • The addition of Hollywood Christian School as a ministry of Hollywood Community Church

Although Hollywood Christian School has been a part of the ministry of Hollywood Community Church for more than 50 years, there was no mention of the School in our By Laws. As we went through our recent accreditation, the Accreditation Committee of FACCS stipulated that the By Laws had to state that Hollywood Christian School was a ministry of Hollywood Community Church. Secondly, the Elder Board was designated as the School Board for Hollywood Christian School. This guarantees that the school will have the same vision and direction as Hollywood Community Church.

  • We continue to transition the authority of the church away from the Senior Pastor, to the Elder Board.

This transition is based on our biblical understanding of leadership. Never in the New Testament do we find the authority of the church placed in the hands of one individual. Rather, we find the church being lead by a plurality of leaders, namely the elders.

Acts 14:23 – And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Acts 20:17 – Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.

Titus 1:5 – That is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained in order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.

This transition does not eliminate the position of Senior Pastor, it just limits his authority and makes him more accountable to the Elder Board. As an Elder, the Senior Pastor serves as the Chairman of the Elder Board. His responsibility is to give spiritual direction. He is considered a leader among equals.

  1. Changes to the Statement of Faith

Admittedly, any changes to the church’s Statement of Faith is a cause for concern and diligence. Yet, I want to assure you that we are not changing what we believe. Although there appear to be many changes to the Statement of Faith (notice the sections in yellow and red), the majority of them are because of two reasons.

  • We desire to simplify and clarify language.

The great majority of the Statement of Faith document was written more than 40 years ago.   Although our doctrinal position has not changed, the way that words are communicated has changed. Our desire is to simplify the language in a way that makes it easy, so that both new and mature believers can understand it.

For example, look at section eleven on the Church. The paragraph that is highlighted in red is what we are recommending to remove. That whole paragraph is one long sentence. Quite frankly, I run out of breath before I can finish reading it :-). As you can tell, we simplified the statement, making it easier to read and easier to understand.

Let me also add that we have taken the majority of the additions from the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which is the accepted doctrinal position of Southern Baptists in the USA.   It is important to realize that we are not writing or adding anything bizarre that we have come up with. Rather, it is the universal position of Conservative Southern Baptists.

  • We desire to amplify our position of last things (Eschatology).

You will notice that we removed much of section 14, the doctrine of Last Things.   You may be thinking, how does removing so much, amplify it? Historically, our church has taken a very strict view of God’s plan for the future. Technically, we have been dispensational, pre-tribulational and pre-millennial.  Additionally, we have made our views on eschatology a point of separation. In other words, you had to agree with us in order to be a member of Hollywood Community Church.

Today, our leaders recognize that evangelical Christians have many views on the future. None of them can be proven with any certainty from Scripture. Therefore, we have pulled back or amplified our explanation of God’s future events stating what we know for sure…

  • We know that Jesus Christ is going to physically return to earth.
  • We know that Jesus will judge all men in righteousness.
  • We know that the unsaved will be eternally punished in hell.
  • We know that the believers will be eternally rewarded in heaven.
  • We know that Jesus will reign for all of eternity future.

The timing and the specifics of how those things are carried out are up for debate. We have determined to state what we know for sure and to not emphasize that which is uncertain.

I trust that this answers any questions that you may have. Please feel free to communicate any questions or concerns with any of the leaders of HCC. We gladly look forward to hearing from you and answering any questions you may have.

We will officially vote on these changes on Sunday, August 28th. Please be in prayer for God’s perfect will to be accomplished. God is at work at Hollywood Community Church. I can’t wait to see what He has for us in the future.

Redeemed!

December 9, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

You are redeemed! You have been rescued from destruction, purchased from slavery and freed from bondage. What a truly amazing thought! Yet, many believers are unfamiliar with what that truth exactly means. We know the information; we just don’t understand the implications. How, then, does the reality of our redemption impact our lives? What effect does it have upon our future?   Let’s try to answer those questions.

Although only found a few times in the New Testament, “redeem” is one of the Bible’s most beautiful words. Notice several verses in which the word is found.

Psalm 107:2 – Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.

Luke 1:68 – Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people. 

Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

I Peter 1:18 – Knowing that you were ransomed (redeemed) from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

The New Testament term “exagorazo” means the purchasing of a slave with a view to his freedom (Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 263). What a beautiful description of that which Jesus accomplished for us. As sinners, we were enslaved to wickedness and chained to un-righteousness, Jesus went to the “marketplace” of this world seeking to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). When He saw us He had compassion on us, bought us (I Cor. 6:20), and then set us free (Galatians 5:1).  That is why Peter states “…we have been ransomed not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…”

Your rescue by Jesus accomplished three importance results.

  1. You were rescued from the penalty of sin.

By paying the purchase price for our sins, Jesus paid the price for our sins and completely canceled our debt.   As a believer, you are now free from any guilt or condemnation.

Colossians 2:14 – By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Romans 8:1 -There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

  1. You were rescued from the power of sin

In other words, because of Christ’s redemptive work sin no longer has any power over you. You are liberated from its death grip and freed to live righteously.

Romans 6:17, 18 – But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

I Corinthians 15:56, 57 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. You will be rescued from the presence of sin

For the redeemed, there is coming a day in which sin will be permanently defeated and abolished.   There will be no more temptation, no more enticement to evil, no more spiritual battles, no more guilt, and no more shame. All sin and death will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Titus 2:13, 14 – Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.

Yes, you are redeemed!   Your redemption has wonderful consequences, not only in this life, but also in the life to come. That certainly gives us a reason to cry out in praise.

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed through His infinite mercy,

His child and forever I am.

Faith and Obedience

September 22, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

In Sunday’s message we observed how Peter, Andrew, James and John responded immediately to the Lord’s command to follow Him. Their obedience was instantaneous and without hesitation. We, thus, concluded that true faith results in obedience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, “Faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.” Is that true, though?

Some would argue that to make obedience a definitive result of faith muddies the waters of salvation by grace alone.   They would insist repentance is a change of mind about Christ and not necessarily a change of mind about sin. A Christian may fall into a state of lifelong carnality and never practice consistent obedience to the commands of Christ. (So Great Salvation, Charles Ryrie, Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1989) I strongly disagree with such assertions. To divorce obedience from faith is to cheapen the value of the gospel. Sadly, such a divorce is clearly seen in today’s Christian culture, where many claim to be followers of Jesus Christ but their life has never changed.  Here are a few thoughts:

First, we must realize that to join faith and obedience does not change the intrinsic nature of the Gospel. Salvation is still a total work of God. Man’s effort is not involved. Man can do nothing to save himself. God is both the Author and the Completer of our salvation.

Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not because of the works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2:8 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Secondly, real faith does produce a changed life.   There is no way a person can be indwelt by the omnipotent power of God and their life not be different. Let me quickly add, though, that such a transformation is not instantaneous and not without great struggle.  Even Paul testified about the inner sanctificational struggle he faced (Romans 7:13-25). Nevertheless, in Christ the old way of living, acting and thinking gradually passes away and all things do become new (II Corinthians 5:17). God changes us from the inside out.

Thirdly, such an expectation of a changed life does not come from an external command but from a changed heart. It is not a list of legalistic rules that we follow, but the inner conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit. Charles Spurgeon stated, “The obedience of faith springs from a principle within and not a compulsion from without.”

One author compared such a response to the obedience of a child contrasted to the compliance of a slave. A slave obeys out of mere obligation. His submission is demanded and thus enforced. A child on the other hand, obeys out of love, loyalty and respect for his or her parent. In the same way, as followers of Christ we obey with a cheerful and a willing heart.

John 14:15 – If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Finally, obedience should never be used as a litmus test of one’s conversion. During the Great Awakening, (a revival that was led by the powerful preaching of Jonathon Edwards and George Whitfield), a believer’s works became the supreme test of one’s faith. Those who did not meet religious expectations were ruled unconverted. Works rather than faith became the basis for salvation. That is a dangerous position to take!

We must always remember that the joining of faith and works is a personal issue.   It is a question of individual examination and not congregational condemnation. The Bible never encourages us to examine the validity of another’s salvation. We are, though, to examine our own.

II Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

So let me ask, has your faith resulted in your obedience to the Lord? Do you more often find yourself in a state of willful submission or willful rebellion? Once again, Spurgeon said, “Only he who believes is obedient and only he who is obedient believes.” May our faith in Jesus Christ propel us to joyfully obey Him!

Responding To Adversaries In Ministry

August 25, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Anyone who has been in ministry for any length of time has experienced opposition.  Such opposition can manifest itself in a variety of forms – a critical church member, a complaining volunteer, an irate parent, or a disgruntled staff member. In 31 years of ministry I have had my share of adversarial experiences. I’ve been criticized, critiqued, challenged, rebuked and threatened. Now, I have to admit that some of the criticism was deserved. I certainly am not immune to making mistakes, and am often in need of constructive criticism. Nevertheless, not all of the opposition has been merited or constructive.

In Sunday’s message we studied the words of Paul that are found in I Corinthians 16:9 – For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. In the midst of wonderful ministry opportunities, Paul had to deal with several pesky adversaries. Quite frankly, Paul’s opponents were more dangerous than ours. In the city of Ephesus opposition to his ministry resulted in riot, persecution and even threats on his life (Acts 19:21-41

Writing later about that experience Paul said, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.” (I Corinthians 1:8-9) Yes, even the most anointed of God’s servants experience opposition. The question, then, is not how to avoid opposition, but rather, how should we respond to it?

  1. Expect it

Peter boldly declared, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Why is it, then, that we are shocked or surprised when opposition comes?   No opposition would be an indication that our ministry is ineffective, that the enemy is not annoyed, that our work is producing little fruit.   John MacArthur states, “In this present age there is no such thing as an authentic ministry without problems and opposition of some sort.” (John MacArthur New Testament Commentary: I Corinthians, p. 465)

  1. Examine it

By that I mean that criticism and opposition give us an excellent opportunity to examine our actions, our responses and our motives.  We are not always right and opposition is not always undeserved.   There are times when we deserve to be rebuked, criticized and opposed. Some of the greatest learning experiences of my life have come from critiques that originally felt unjustified, but upon further examination, were found to be true.

Repeatedly, throughout Scripture we are told to examine ourselves…

Lamentations 3:40 – Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!

II Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.

Galatians 6:4 – But let each one test his own work…

So, before you toss opposition aside and claim to be unjustifiably persecuted, examine what is being said. Search your heart. Scrutinize your life.   Allow God to use this obstacle to chip away at your rough edges and mold you into His likeness.

  1. Embrace it

I know that sounds like an odd statement. After all, who wants to embrace opposition? Who enjoys dealing with problems? Yet, Jesus never promised that our service for Him would be trouble free. In fact, He instructs us to rejoice and be glad when we face opposition.

Matthew 5:10-13 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against your falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The simple truth is that anyone who attempts to serve the Lord will face opposition. I love the words of G. Campbell Morgan, “If you have no opposition in the place you serve, then you are serving in the wrong place.” Take heart, opposition is often a confirmation that you are right where God wants you to be.

Lessons From Five Years Of Ministry

August 4, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Back in 2011, nine months after coming to Hollywood Community Church, I wrote a blog article titled, “Confessions of a New Pastor” in which I laid out some of the very personal and ministry lessons God was teaching me.  You can find that article in the archives of my former blog www.brianburkholder.org.   Now, more than four years have passed and God is still working on me. Here are a few lessons that God continues to teach me.

1. I am extremely blessed

What an honor to be able to serve our Hollywood Community Church staff and family. Every week I am humbled by the passion, humility and dedication of our ministry teams. Their dedication inspires me, their sacrifice humbles me and their love for Jesus motivates me. Yes, I am extremely blessed to be a part of this wonderful ministry.  I love HCC!

2. It takes a team to impact a community

Although, the lead pastor often receives the credit and the accolades for ministry success, it really takes a team. No one person can revive a ministry and no one pastor can build a church. It takes a qualified and unified team. That certainly is what the Lord has given us at HCC. I am honored to serve with some of the best elders, pastors, deacons, administrators, teachers and volunteers that I have seen in 30 years of ministry.  Together we are making an impact on our community.

3. It is God’s Word that changes lives

It is easy for preachers to become deceived into thinking that it is our wit, eloquence or charisma that impacts the lives of others. That simply is not true. We may influence people, but we cannot change them. Only the Word of God can change hearts.   That is why I am more and more convinced as to the importance of expository preaching.   By expository preaching I am referring to the systematic grammatical historical explanation of the biblical text.   Such a continuous form of preaching allows believers to study the “whole counsel of God.”   Recently, while preaching through I Corinthians, one of our members commented on the teaching of I Corinthians 14 stating, “I didn’t even know that was taught in the Bible.” I love that! Expository preaching moves us away from the most popular passages and allows believers to be confronted with the truth of even the less-known passages of Scripture.  As they come face to face with biblical truth, God changes them.

4. Longevity, longevity, longevity

It is often quoted that the three most important words in real estate are location, location, and location.  Well, I believe that ministry has a similar adage in that its three most important words are longevity, longevity and longevity.   After five years of ministry at HCC I feel as if we are just getting started. I am amazed at pastors who leave their churches after a few short years. After five years, I truly believe that I am just beginning to understand our history, our community and our DNA.   Why would I want to go somewhere else just to start all over again?   The longer God keeps me at HCC and the longer God keeps our team together the greater the probability of our truly impacting this community for Jesus.

5. God still does the miraculous

What God has done these past five years at HCC is nothing short of miraculous. It has been so rewarding to see Him raise up leaders, create a renewed vision for our community and yes even restore financial stability. Some had thought that HCC was beyond hope, yet God has graciously proven otherwise. He truly can “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” To Him be the glory the honor and the praise!

Well, that is all that I have for now. Please pray with me and for me that God would continue to mold me into the disciple, husband, father and pastor that He desires for me to be. He is still working on me!

The “One Another” Life

July 7, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Our society is becoming increasingly more isolated.  Modern technology has played a huge role in our relational disconnect. Garages protect us from having to see and speak to our neighbors. Air conditioners keep us behind closed doors. And television and social media keep us occupied. Quite frankly, we can literally live years without actually meeting the people that live next door to us.  We no longer feel as if we need so much human interaction.

If we are not careful, it is easy to bring that same mentality into the Church. Many love the anonymity of a large congregation. They shy away from small groups. To arrive late and leave early is the “MO” of many believers. Yet, that is not the way that God created us.

From the very beginning God designed man with the need to be in the company of others.   That truth is first seen in Genesis 2:18 when God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”   It is in the fellowship with other believers that we find the encouragement, accountability and support that we desperately need.

The phrase that Paul uses to describe the believer’s mutual relationship is “one another”. Although “one another” is two words in English, it is only one word in Greek (ἀλλήλων). It is found 100 times in 94 New Testament verses.  One third of the time it speaks of unity and one third of the time it speaks of the believer’s love for one another.   15% of the time it speaks of humility and deference to one another.  The simple truth that Paul understood and communicated to his readers is that the Christian life must be lived with ONE ANOTHER.

  • Be patient with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • Love one another (John 13:34; 15:12; Romans 13:8)
  • Welcome one another (Romans 15:7)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

Honestly, it is hard to practice the ONE ANOTHER life in a church our size. It is impossible to have a conversation with 600 people. Statistics show that no matter how large the church, the average member only knows a little more than 50 people. Thus, our challenge is to make a big church small. That is why LIFE GROUPS are so important. It is in LIFE GROUPS that the ONE ANOTHER principle is lived out.

At HCC our LIFE GROUPS have three goals.

  • Life Groups facilitate Christian fellowship

The simple truth is that you don’t have to know everyone in the church as long as you know somebody in the church.  LIFE GROUPS provide friendship, camaraderie and accountability. They connect you with people that are struggling with the same battles that you face and rejoice in similar victories.   In short, LIFE GROUPS provide you with Christian friends that will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

  • Life Groups facilitate spiritual growth

In other words, spiritual growth takes place in small groups. There is something unique and powerful about studying God’s Word in a small group setting. In the worship service you sit and listen to the Pastor, while in small groups you sit and share with each other. Small groups allow for biblical truth to come alive in a way that is powerfully different than the worship experience.   Both are necessary for spiritual growth.

  • Life Groups facilitate Christian Service

LIFE GROUPS spur one another to service. It makes perfect sense to do ministry with the same group of people with whom you are growing in your spiritual walk.   Such ministry opportunities provide the perfect environment to put into practice the spiritual truths that you are learning.   Not only that, but it makes Christian service fun. It is so much fun to be able to serve the Lord and others with those whom you know and love the best.

So, are you involved in a LIFE GROUP? If not, you are missing out on a HUGE blessing. Don’t be an anonymous, isolated believer. Let me challenge you to find a LIFE GROUP with believers who can pour into your life. I promise your life will never be the same.